We’ve all been called "stupid" or called other people "stupid" and it’s easy to see why. Many times we act foolishly and observe others doing the same. This action is especially noticeable when you see an intelligent person engaging in a foolish action or behavior. What exactly constitutes “stupid” though?
There have been multiple studies on defining what this word means and although it’s a broad term, the scientific study of “stupid” can actually be thought of as three primary behaviors.
In the study performed, the first main category where stupidity was recognized was confident ignorance. This was based on people who took on risky acts without having the skills. A recent news story where this was an example was burglars who stole GPS devices believing they were phones. Having a higher level of confidence than skill set was recognized in the study as a stupid behavior.
This behavior can also be thought of as a lack of practicality and the cluster of behaviors here was seen as having a fair amount of stupidity. The example used was when a person inflated the tires in a car but added more air than allowed. The mistake is either not paying attention to the air pressure or not knowing the basics of tire inflation. While still seen as a stupid behavior, the research found that this was an area where people were more likely to be sympathetic than judgmental.
Lack of Control
Study participants found this cluster of behaviors to be related to a result of obsessive compulsion or addictive behaviors. One of the stories in this category involved a person who cancelled a meeting with a friend in order to stay home and play video games. This area received a middle rating of stupidity and some participants were sympathetic although they recognized that these actions were foolish in nature. Similar instances of this may be a person who spends their paycheck foolishly or simply can’t stop gossiping in the office although it hurts that person professionally.
Although stupidity is not always thought of in categories, this study actually helps to understand the different types of stupidity and how it is judged. The study also found that actions are judged more harshly when the person committing the act has a high level of responsibility or the results of the stupidity have serious consequences.
Understanding how and why stupidity is perceived, you may be able to get a better assessment in the future.